I’ve been traveling through Honduras with inspiring women: Liz Quirin, editor of the Messenger in Belleville, Ill., Sarah Dixon, assistant editor of the Southern Cross in Savannah, Ga., and The Tidings’ very own culture columnist Heather King, a well-known author and speaker in her own right. We are on a media trip with Unbound, a nonprofit organization serving the marginalized in Honduras and across the globe.

We’ve also been accompanied by Unbound’s talented Elizabeth Alex and Becky Spachek, who are based at the home office in Kansas City. The local staff in Honduras is pretty great, too. Bottom line: I’ve been keeping extraordinary company.

Still, the mothers who fend for their families against all odds have inspired me the most. The vast majority are single mothers. This means a lot to me as I grew up in a single-parent home. Yet, as strong as my mother was for us, it’s impossible to compare the circumstances.

Take Do√±a Maria, for example. We met her on Thursday morning and she shared how, six months after one of her children was born, the father left her. She had nowhere to go, and so, would set up make-shift tents on sidewalks. It’s an ugly system that allows for a woman to nurse her child on the street. Yet, it’s beautiful that she did it.

Doña Maria has a better place now. She scrapes by, washing clothes and doing housework everyday. Thanks to sponsors in the U.S., her two sons are receiving benefits and are able to stay in school.

At the market, we met several women who make ends meet by showing up early and selling fruits and vegetables. Some of the product is bought from farmers early in the morning, but some of it comes from their own fields. These women put in at least 12 hours a day, six days a week, and their daily take is usually less than $6. 

Another woman we met wakes up at 4 a.m. to cook corn and prepare for a day of selling delicious tortillas at the market. She’s been doing this for six months and now employs two others in the endeavor. Thanks to the help they receive through their sponsored children, they make enough to get by.

Earlier this week, we met an Unbound-sponsored family that has a 15-year-old girl with Down syndrome. Her mother and her aunt, both single mothers, live together and also care for two other children and the grandmother, who has diabetes. Life is a struggle — but it’s also a joy. This family laughed as much as any other we visited during the week.

Unbound also facilitates mother’s groups in villages, showing women how they can work together to build a stronger community. That cooperation starts with simple things like helping to decorate for birthday parties and works up to microfinancing.

In the U.S., I have friends who are the first in their families to graduate college. In Honduras, I met young women who were going to college and whose parents are illiterate. This doesn’t happen by change. It happens when people sponsor children through Unbound.

I met a lot of inspiring men, too: Fathers who stood by their families; Father Art, who sponsors children and was our spiritual guide on the trip; and the many men who work for Unbound as social workers, who like their female colleagues, painstakingly care for more than 300 families each. I don’t want to take anything away from that, but the strength of these mothers who tough it out alone is what stood out the most to me on this last full day in Honduras.

If you’re interested in sponsoring a child, a young adult or an elderly person in one of the 21 countries served by Unbound, please visit www.unbound.org. You can learn a lot more about the organization — founded by lay Catholics — on their website, which is informative and a lot of fun to navigate.